barlow

Him

Birmingham Rep Door

*****

THIS is Tim Barlow’s biographical story about looking back on the experiences of life from the perspective of an 80-year-old.

Although biographical, the play is embodied by the writing of Sheila Hill. Both artists have collaborated to show us the nuances of life. Hill is incredibly appreciative of Barlow’s vast experience which makes for an expressive account of life at 80. With the addition of Hugo Glendinning’s videography and Glen Miller’s In the Mood, Him shows us the sweet world of Barlow and ultimately, the meaning of life to one person.

Barlow releases a magic which instantly captivates the audience. From the moment he starts to speak, the audience are engaged by his story. His beautiful approach to talking and storytelling is second nature, and it feels as if you are making a friend. He gives the impression that he could talk for hours, and you wouldn’t mind listening to a story with a plain and simple message; to look back at life.

In most solo performance shows, we can look into the essence of the character with a great range of depth. In this show, there is a new dynamic. Barlow is an actor in his own right and even gives the audience tips on what he regards as the ‘crux’ of acting, yet he is completely stripped bare of any character traits on stage.

He is completely himself. Hill’s has written a story about someone who also happens to be the actor. When the actor is also the protagonist of the story, the audience see an exploration of theatre that becomes uniquely interactive.

The screen at the centre of the stage displays videos throughout the piece and we merge from live performance to interactive viewing. The addition of live bassist Sebastiano Dessanay is another fantastic layer to create a happy-go-lucky essence that takes Barlow’s world from real life onto the stage.

 

It is a world where his impeccable presence has us utterly fixated in a state of wonder. It gives an intimacy and a new feeling of learning from another’s experience. Barlow trusts the audience wholeheartedly and is very happy to share with us his unique and fruitful past, even with experiences of hardship.

As the piece unfolds, he allows the audience to connect to him on a personal level through the vivid detail and beautiful story telling from writer Hill. Barlow takes us through every human emotion in the hope of connecting to the audience’s soul. He strives to relate to human nature as a whole. He talks about his life chronologically, sharing the events that have taken him up to the current moment of his life.

He tells us about events during childhood that leads into the trails of young love. Hill weaves good experiences with the griefs of life so that we suddenly experience moments of pain and sadness, just as we do in real life, as we do not know when they will occur. Barlow’s delivery is always perfect.

He has a rare story to tell. Life as a young man was mostly spent in the army and he enthrals us with fascinating and particular stories. Barlow also explains that he lost his sense of hearing during training with guns. It is with a new disability that shaped Barlow’s post-army career, with life as an actor. Barlow explains in one particular experience at the RSC, that he learned not only his own lines, but also the rest of the cast’s, because of being unable to hear cue lines. The play comes to an uplifting end when Barlow tells us about the restoration of his hearing, through a medical procedure. His hope for the future and appreciation of the past is illuminating.

Him is a beautiful and unique piece. In essence, Barlow wants to create is a reflection of human nature. Barlow and Hill allow us to look into our own past to see the fine things in life so that we can look forward to the future with hope. Barlow is the bridge between the past and the future and gives us a story in the present to be hopeful and happy. To 08-10-16

Elizabeth Halpin

06-10-16 

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